While the coronavirus outbreak poses big challenges to older people, Pacific Gardens retirement community is keeping residents safe and enjoying life even in the face of a global pandemic.
Pacific Gardens took action before the full force of the crisis hit, and that foresight may have made all the difference, because so for the community has had no confirmed coronavirus cases.
“It’s a blessing during these times of COVID-19 to have Mom at Pacific Gardens,” said Jeannette Frain Kim.
“We started preparing almost a month ago when we first heard of this thing,” said CEO and owner Randy Zhodne. The facility is always well-stocked, with enough supplies to operate for two weeks without any deliveries.
“HUD was very impressed with the measures we’ve been taking,” he said. “We have doubled up on all cleaning procedures.” Pacific Gardens has also been using a newly popular sanitizing “gun” in cleaning the premises for several years.
“I feel very confident Mom is being cared for,” said Linda Dorian. “Pacific Gardens has wonderful, loving caregivers. They’re very aware of how to keep everyone safe and they are taking all measures possible.”
“We began closing to visitors almost three weeks ago,” said Randy Zhodne, “and we have been taking the temperature of everybody coming in for the last two weeks. Besides employees, there is no one coming in except for families with relatives in hospice care. And we have mandatory health checks for employees coming in.”
“Everyone is good about keeping their distance, and sanitizing their hands,” said resident Ann Hill.
But physical health is only one part of a healthy life. Social life is also important. “For older people isolation is already a problem,” said Executive VP and General Manager Matt Zahodne.
Meals are now in small groups with only two at a table — six feet apart — to keep some level of social mealtimes; although some residents prefer their meals in their apartments.
“We have a fantastic activity staff and care staff doing what they can to keep people entertained,” said Matt Zahodne.
Large group activities have been replaced with versions that work with small groups staying six feet apart, holding multiple groups at different times and in different rooms. Residents are coming up with creative ways to make their own entertainment, he says.
“I’m making sure I’m getting exercise by walking,” said resident Frank Aochi. Longtime resident Laura DeCarlo said she “just started playing Bingo! And now I’m out of dimes!”
Some residents play the piano for their neighbors, there’s a new singing group and an avid reader is reading aloud for residents, he says. The chef is making special meals to make dining an occasion, as other events have been cancelled for the present.
“I observe all the activities we’re doing for our residents,” said resident Hill. But she also found out “how much I miss my daughter. I didn’t appreciate her enough!” she said.
One of the most difficult parts of the shelter in place order is the inability to visit with family and friends. “One of the hardest things for seniors to deal with is isolation,” Randy Zahodne said. So Pacific Gardens has been active keeping people connected.
Families are contacted weekly, to keep them up-to-date about the situation. “We’ve set up a visitation window and people can see each other and talk on a cellphone with visitors,” said Randy Zahodne.
Virtual gatherings with other facilities and visits with families have been organized using Skype and Facetime. “We are also making short video clips to send to families,” said Matt.
If a resident is diagnosed with coronavirus, Pacific Gardens is ready for that, too. Quarantine procedures and protective equipment are in place.
“We would reach out to the patient’s physician and County health department,” Matt Zahodne said. “Residents understand the situation, that everything’s being done to keep them safe.”
“Mom is in the best place possible during this scenario,” said Joann Morris. “Mom is in a safe place and I know she is protected and cared for. I don’t have to worry.”
“Our staff is dedicated to caring for the elderly,” said Randy Zahodne.